Sunday 13 March 2016

Martial and Basti impress again but Fellaini divides opinion

In amongst the rubble and wreckage of United's traumatic season, the £36m purchase of Anthony Martial has been one of the few shining lights. 

The 20-year-old came to the rescue for his side and manager, just as West Ham looked on course to knock the Reds out of the FA Cup.

The busy Frenchman was tireless and energetic throughout and got his reward when he reacted first at the far post to turn in Ander Herrera's cross.

If United had gone out here, Van Gaal would have been left banking on his side delivering the sort of comeback we look incapable of producing as Liverpool arrive at Old Trafford with a
2-0 Europa League first leg lead.

Not only would an FA Cup exit effectively have ended our season but it would almost certainly have ended Van Gaal's tenure at the end of the campaign.

Martial's goal at least gives us a fighting chance to salvage some silverware from the season. 

The giant figure of Marouane Fellaini has always been a square peg in a round hole at Old Trafford, a player out of step with the club's traditions of fast, attacking play.

It has not always been the Belgian's fault, but the regard in which he is held was emphasised by the loud cheers that greeted his substitution, the loudest of the day at that point. 

Fellaini has a David-Moyes shaped stigma hanging over him which he cannot shift and, on this occasion, did not deserve the sarcastic cheers.
He was tidy in the tackle and solid in possession, but he struggled to make an impact in his defensive role and his passing is too ponderous to effectively start our attacks from deep. 

His cause was not helped by the fact that United's play was totally transformed once he went off and replaced by Bastian Schweinsteiger.

United had been one-dimensional and stodgy with too many long balls and unimaginative ideas that proved too predictable for the West Ham defence.

Van Gaal's changes finally saw us produce pace, width and threat, with the 31-year-old German showing all his qualities and experience to spread the play and belatedly give the Hammers something to think about. 

The sudden build up of pressure- sparked by the substitutions- led to the late rally and Martial's equaliser- so perhaps a lesson learned for Van Gaal. 

Schweinsteiger's leadership has been missed immensely during his two months out, and his introduction gave United an extra dimension and added urgency in an otherwise generally pedestrian match. 

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